June is National Aphasia Awareness Month! Aphasia is a language disorder that affects the ability to communicate. It does not affect intelligence. It simply impairs the ability to speak and understand others. It occurs due to an injury to the brain, most often a stroke. It can also occur from head trauma, brain tumors, or from infections.
It can be mild or so severe that communication is almost impossible. It can affect the ability to retrieve the name of objects or it can affect the ability to put words together into sentences, or even the ability to read.
Aphasia is challenging, isolating, and frustrating. We want to increase public education around the language disorder and to recognize the numerous people who are living with or caring for people with aphasia.
A great resource is www.aphasia.org. Also, below are some great tips for communication.
1. Interact with family. A family’s interaction with a person with aphasia is critical. The interaction with a family member or close friend is important for them to understand the situation and have someone that they can feel comfortable around in different situations.
2. Inform conversational partners. A person with aphasia should reveal their condition to anyone they intend to have an in-depth discussion with. It should be a rehearsed message that concisely explains the aphasia. If needed, it can be placed on a business card that is carried in a purse or wallet.
3. Provide feedback. For example, when ordering a sandwich, the person behind the counter may talk too fast. Simply ask her to please slow down. From that point on communication can become a success story instead of an example of frustration.
4. Use visuals. For the ladies, when ordering cosmetics or lipstick, bring in the empty tube of the color or style last used. When grocery shopping, bring in the empty can or product wrapper and show the employee the wrapper, and a successful experience will follow. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
5. Be polite. Remember, you are the one with the physical challenge, not them.
6. Pay attention. This will help you make sure that what you say is what you mean. It is a common symptom of aphasia to respond with a “yes” when what you really are trying to say is “no.” To avoid embarrassment, be sure of what you say or you can end up with some strange things.
7. Use communication aids. There are some very good communication aids: a piece of paper with the alphabet on it; pictures of some common activities like mowing the lawn or ordering a cup of coffee. However, the most effective of these is a business card handout.
Depending on the amount of speech loss, the business card can help a person communicate when speech fails. It gives the cardholder’s name, emergency contacts, physician’s name and telephone number, and this message: “Aphasia is an impairment of the ability to sometimes use or comprehend words, usually acquired as a result of a stroke. Depending on where and to what extent the brain is injured, each person with aphasia has a unique set of language disabilities. I am not drunk or mentally unstable! It is NOT a loss of intelligence!"
For more information and tips, visit www.strokeassociation.org and www.aphasia.org.
Source: www.strokeassociation.org, www.aphasia.org